Floridians who lost their jobs because of Hurricane Irma may be eligible for help from the government.
WMNF News interviewed Alice Cobb, director of programs at Career Source Pinellas and Career Source Tampa Bay, which are offering Irma recovery assistance for workers in the area.
“We have various types of assistance. For example, we are manning, assisting the county and the state to open up a disaster/recovery center down in Riverview. That’s located at the Hillsborough Community College regent office at 6437 Watson Road in Riverview. That will be open 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. for individuals to actually come there and get assistance from FEMA and from other organizations. In addition, we are helping the State Department of Economic Opportunity to let people know about Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance and we are providing them access through our career centers to file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. And finally, as we do every day of the week, we provide individuals, job-seekers, with the assistance and the tools that they need to find jobs. So, if somebody has lost their job due to the hurricane or for any other reason or if they’re just coming into the job market, we can help them by helping them put together a resume, by helping them search for jobs and just general job search and job placement assistance.”
Who is eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance?
“Anybody who was working or self-employed and as a result of the hurricane they are no longer working, because, let’s say the company that they were working for had to be shut down because of damage to the building or because of power outages, they could not work. Anybody who has lost their job because of the hurricane or anybody who is self-employed and can no longer work that job because of the hurricane. Also, individuals who may have an injury as a direct result of the disaster and cannot perform the work any longer.”
You mentioned the center in Riverview, where people can apply in person, but, if you can’t make it to Riverview are there other ways for people to apply for this assistance?
“Absolutely. We have a lot of information on our website: careersourcepinellas.com or careersourcetampabay.com and it gives links and phone numbers where they can apply for assistance. It gives a lot of information on the resources that are available locally. Even information on, you know, how to link with some of the information that may be a little longer-term, such as ‘how does a disaster impact how you report information on your taxes’ and that’s all on our website. We have a special page on each, that’s Hurricane Irma recovery assistance.”
You’ve already mentioned, for people who have completely lost their jobs because of the storm, but, what about people who were out of work for several days, maybe a week or more, because of the storm? Is there any kind of assistance that someone who worked at a grocery store or a teacher or someone who worked in retail or something, who could not go to work for those days during the storm. Is there any kind of help for them?
“The Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance is usually for individuals who are out of work, not for a few days at a time, but, I would encourage individuals to go ahead and apply there. But, there are other local sources of need. For example, just the 211 number, here in our Tampa Bay Area, that people can call if they need help with food, help with utilities and such as that. All of our food banks are working together to provide individuals with food supplements if they lost their power and everything in their refrigerator went away. In addition, the state is pursuing emergency food stamps and as soon as that information comes down, we’ll be sending that out to everybody, to help people to get some food if they’ve lost it due to the hurricane.”
Does this apply to business owners who lost some of their property on their business or were forced to close for a short time?
“Does what apply, Seán?”
The assistance that you are offering.
“There are small business disaster loans that you can access. In fact, we have a link on our website for somebody to actually apply for a Small Business Assistance Disaster Loan, and you always have the option to check https://nation21loans.com/personal-loans/bad-credit-loans/ where you can get the best loans. The state is encouraging all employers to report their damage through a survey that they have and that is also linked on our website. And then, I know our economic development partners in the area are reaching out to individual businesses to see if there’s anything that they can do to assist them, as well.”
And finally, I want to find out where the funding is coming from for these different programs. What are some of the sources? Are they federal, state programs?
“Absolutely. All of the above. In addition to you and I making donations to our local non-profits and such to assist in our community.”
And the federal and state ones are things like FEMA and the Florida disaster assistance?
“Correct. And funding that we receive, which is called The National Emergency Grant – the state has applied for that–that comes from the Secretary of The U.S. Department of Labor. I’m assuming that the state will get that special grant and that will come down to help individuals who have lost their jobs due to the disaster and it would give us additional funding to help them find new jobs, new training for jobs and such.”
In an email Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office “announced the state has been awarded federal Dislocated Worker Grants to provide temporary employment to Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma. The Dislocated Worker Grants, administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, provide disaster relief employment in the form of temporary jobs that support storm response and recovery efforts.”